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Halloween Costumes

26 Oct

T minus 6 days until Halloween!  Is your costume ready?  Mine isn’t either!  No worries, over the years I have often waited until the last minute and still come up with some great costume ideas that you can throw together using mostly things you find around the house or can get pretty easily and cheaply.  Check out these DIY costume ideas!

Mario and Luigi Costume:



For a girly take on this classic costume I cut and hemmed some overalls I found at a thrift store.  The letters on the hats are just cut out of paper and the matching t-shirts were also thrift store finds.  Dig some black boots and white winter gloves out of the closet and you are ready to go fight Bowser!

The Cheshire Cat Costume:



I found this perfect Cheshire cat inspired striped fabric at the store and knew just what to do with it!  I made this body suit by laying down on the fabric and having someone trace me.  Then I simply cut out the tracing and sewed it together.  Add some ears and a little drawn on nose and whiskers and voila!  You are ready to give cryptic advice to everyone at the party.  The best part about this costume is that the back of it is made out of black fabric so that when I turn around…


—I disappear!  😀

80s Fab Costume:


I made this costume completely with stuff I found in my own closet!  This is a fun costume to do in a group because everyone can participate just by being creative with clothes and accessories they already have. I used an old full piece bathing suit as the base (a tank top would work just as well) and I wore a pink tube top as a skirt.  I cut a hole in the crotch of some black fishnet tights and put my head through the hole and my arms through the legs (after I cut off the feet of the tights) in order to wear it as a shirt.  Some black leggings and leg warmers paired with a pair of heels and I was ready to rock out and get physical like Olivia Newton-John!


Poison Ivy Costume:




Whether you want to go as the plant or as the super villain, this easy costume covers all the bases!  Just grab a green tank top and some green socks with the toes cut out, wrap yourself in ivy from the garden or from the craft store and you are ready to wreak itchy havoc everywhere!

Corpse Bride Costume:



This costume is pretty versatile because it can also double as a zombie bride costume!  I found a wedding dress and veil from the thrift store (any white dress will do) and cut the top of the dress to make it strapless like the Corpse Bride’s dress.  The dress and veil were a nice pristine white so I made them look aged by soaking them overnight  in a bath of tea.  I got the blue wig and face paint from a costume store and put on my poutiest face to go in search of my groom!

Leeloo from The Fifth Element Costume:



I made this costume for a friend who looks JUST LIKE Milla Jovovich.  I cropped a white t-shirt and spray painted some white tights gold; then used a black sharpie to draw the lines on the tights.  To make the orange jumper I took a large orange shirt and traced out the design while my friend was wearing the shirt.  I cut out the design and sewed the front and back hems together to make a crotch seam.  We added some black boots, an orange wig and a paper multipass and Leeloo was ready to go save the world!

Have a safe and fun Halloween!


Tutorial Tuesday: How to Dye a Dress

25 Oct beforeafter

Today we are going to take an old white dress that was covered with stains and give it a new lease on life using some blast from the past inspiration –  I found this amazing ribbon at the fabric store and just couldn’t pass it up:


This ribbon has a great 60’s mod flare that I tried to infuse into this old white dress, the outcome was pretty groovy 🙂


Total crafting time: About two and a half hours of actual work plus an hour for the dress to go through the washer and dryer while dyeing.


-white or light colored dress

-one box of Rit dye in Kelly Green

-sewing machine

-1 yard of  1/2″ ribbon

-1 yard of 1 1/2″ ribbon

-thread to match ribbon



-pitcher or bowl

-washing machine or large pot

-dryer or line to dry clothes


-measuring cup

Step 1: Lets set up the dye bath.  Pour two cups of hot water into a pitcher or bowl.


Step 2:  Open your box of Rit dye and pour the entire package into the water.



Step 3: Stir the dye bath until all the powder is fully dissolved.  Unless you want a green spoon, it is best to use a metal or plastic spoon rather than wood!


Step 4:  Turn your washing machine to the hottest setting and shortest cycle and add the dye!  Alternatively, you can add this dye to a pot of boiling water on top of the stove.  Add enough water to fully submerge your garment.


Step 5: Stick the dress in the machine and wait for the cycle to finish!  If boiling on the stove, leave the dress in about half an hour.  Once you put the dress in the dye bath you will notice that it dyes right away.  It is important to leave it in for the full cycle for the dye to set completely into the fibers and achieve the boldest colors.  If you want a lighter color, use less dye and more water but still allow the garment to soak for a full half hour.  In this case, I was going for bold and was very happy with the result!

Step 6:  Remove the dress from the washer and stick it in the dryer or on a line to dry.  A line is definitely the better option for the environment, but I just couldn’t wait to see the finished color so I went with the dryer 🙂takingdressout

Step 7:  The final color was nice and bright and complemented well the ribbon that inspired it all.  Time to attach that ribbon!


Line up the bottom of the 1 1/2″ ribbon along the bottom hem of the dress and pin.  Fold over and sew the ribbon at the ends so it doesn’t fray. The ribbon ends should meet at one of the side seams to make it less conspicuous.


Pinning away!

Step 8:  Thread the machine with thread that matches your ribbon and sew the ribbon to the hem!  Try not to stretch and pull the fabric or the ribbon too much while you sew – otherwise your ribbon might come out all puckered and no one likes sour ribbon 😛



All sewn! (and a little wrinkly)

Step 9: It’s almost time to sew some ribbon down the center!  But first I have to remove all those pesky buttons running down the center of my dress.  I simply took some scissors and snipped off all 14 buttons and set them aside for use in a future project 🙂


After the button removal, I was left with a giant gaping hole in my dress!


I took to the machine and sewed it up.  I wasn’t worried about matching thread because this part is going to be covered with ribbon.


All stitched up!

Step 10: Pin the 1/2″ ribbon down the center front.  Fold it over on both ends so it doesn’t fray.


Step 11:  Thread the machine with matching thread and sew up that ribbon!  Again, try not to pull or stretch the fabric too much as you sew in order to avoid bubbles or puckers in your ribbon.


All sewn up!

Step 12:  Now that the front is finished, it’s time to put the finishing touches on the back.  The back of this dress has two fabric ties in order to pull the dress tight and make a bow.  The ties were pretty lackluster so I removed them by cutting them out of the seam they were sewn into.


Step 13:  Then, I used the leftover ribbon to replace the ties.  Be sure to finish off the ribbon edges by sewing a little square at each end!


Then, I inserted the raw end of the ribbon into the little hole in the seam where I cut the original ties.


And the dress is complete!  Here is the final product:


And the ties in the back:


Enjoy!  And send me your versions for me to post on the site:

Tutorial Tuesday: T-shirt Bag Edition!

18 Oct

Hi!  Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday!  It’s bonus tutorial week because I also did a tutorial yesterday for a Pikachu Halloween costume. Thank you for your wonderful comments and feedback on the costume, it has inspired me to try to squeeze in a few more costume tutorials before Halloween!

Today we are going to recycle an old t-shirt and turn it into a bag!  This is like a recycling project squared because the bag is the perfect size and shape to hold groceries and save plastic and paper bags when shopping. I chose an old concert t-shirt from a band I loved as a teenager 😀


What you will need for this project:



-sewing machine



-seam ripper

Step 1: Use your seam ripper to detach both sleeves from the t-shirt.  You can also just cut the sleeves off but seam ripping makes for neater edges and more fabric to work with.



You could always stop here and have a sweet sleeveless cut-off t-shirt circa 1992!

Step 2: Set those sleeves aside while we work on the main part of the shirt.  Take some scissors and cut open the seam at the shoulders.


Step 3:  Now, lets sew up the bottom hem of the shirt to get it really looking like a bag!  Just turn the shirt inside and sew along the bottom hem.  You can pin the hem together to make it easier to sew and you can also round the edges a bit as you sew so the corners aren’t so pointy 😀



all sewn up!

Step 4:  Start just at the outside of the collar and cut a bib shape around the neckline of the shirt.  The bottom of the bib shape should line up with the armpit where the sleeve used to be.


Step 5:  Using the bib shape in the front as a guide, cut the same shape out of the back of the shirt.


Step 6: Now that the main part of the bag is done, let’s revisit those sleeves!  Take your handy seam ripper and take out the seam that holds the sleeves together.



Step 7: Cut off the hem and the curve of the sleeve so you have one nice, straight line.  Do this for both sleeves!



Step 8: Pin the sleeves to the cut ends at the shoulders to make the strap. Pin the right (correct) sides of the fabric facing each other so the wrong sides of the fabric are facing out.  Then fold the strap over and pin it to the back shoulder also with right sides together and wrong sides facing out.  Do this for both sides.



Step 9:  Head on over to your sewing machine and stitch up those seams.  Don’t forget to remove your pins as you sew! And voila!  Now you have a handy dandy bag that will forever remind you of that beloved old t-shirt that you just don’t wear anymore. Happy shopping!


Rockin’ Revamped Roller Skates

12 Oct

For my roommates birthday, I found her old, beat up pair of roller skates in the garage and revamped them to give them a second lease on life!  This is what the before skates looked like:


The first thing to do was to jazz up those laces!


There were scuffs on the leather and rust on the metal clips where the shoelaces are tied but I took care of that pretty easily with a coat of white acrylic paint.

Then I also used acrylic paint to paint a 70’s style rainbow on each side and added some colors to the back.



The inside of the tongue was all moth-eaten so I sewed some cool polka-dotted fabric inside to match the funky rainbow motif.


The birthday girl loved the way the final product turned out!  Can’t wait to go skating and watch her take these babies for a spin.



Tutorial Tuesday: Paper Towel Flowers

27 Sep

Welcome back to the second ever edition of Tutorial Tuesday!  Today I will show you all how to turn one of the most common household objects into a wearable work of art: paper towel flowers!

With just a few simple steps you can turn an ordinary paper towel into a beautiful flower to wear as a bracelet, headband, brooch or any other accessory you can think of!

For this project, you will need the following materials:

-paper towel (s)

-pen and/or pencil


-glue (preferably super glue but any kind will work)

-needle and thread

-ribbon or headband (or string, in a pinch!)

-a plate or something else circular for tracing out a circle

-OPTIONAL: some coffee or tea in a bowl for coloring the flower

Step 1:  Lay a plate or other circular object on top of the paper towel and trace.


Step 2: Cut out the paper towel so that you have a lovely circle.  Then, cut the circle into a spiral shape starting from the outside and working your way in.  spiral

Step 3: Starting from the outside end, roll the arm of the spiral towards the center, gathering bit by bit into your thumb and forefinger.


Be sure to hold firmly onto the base of the flower as you wrap so that it doesn’t come undone!



Step 4: Wrap the entire arm of the spiral until you get to the little circle part at the end (the center of the spiral that you cut), leave the circle loose for now and get out your needle and thread.  Tie a knot at one end of the thread and push the needle through the top center of the flower and out through the bottom.



Step 5: Sew back and forth through the pinched center of the bottom of the flower a few times to secure all the wrapping.



After the stitching is complete

Step 6: Once the bottom is secured, dab some glue on the little circle that you left unwrapped and glue the circle over the bottom end of the flower to make it look nice and clean.


Step 7: Use your paper towel scraps to cut out another circle one inch in diameter.




Step 8: Take the headband or ribbon you want to use and place it upside-down on top of the underside of the flower.  Dab some glue on your newly cut circle and glue the circle on top of the headband.


glue dabbin'


Step 9:  Let the glue dry and then rock out in your fancy new headband!



If you want to color your headband, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Complete steps 1 through 6 above.


Step 2: Pour enough coffee or tea into a bowl to just cover the bottom.


Step 3: Hold the flower by the bottom and gently dip the tips of the petals into the coffee.  For full coverage, you can plunge the whole thing in, but I opted for more of a tie-dye effect.



Step 4:  Let the flower dry and then follow steps 7 through 9 above in order to attach it to a ribbon or headband.  I used a nice green ribbon to complement the antiqued look of the coffee-dyed flower.



There are many variations you can use to switch up the look of your flowers.  For example, you can cut a circle with wavy edges instead of straight ones:


The circle is folded into quarters so it is easier to cut out.

You can also dip-dye the circle before you wrap it into a flower.  Place the circle flat on top of the bowl and push the center into the coffee/tea with your fingers.  Let the paper towel sit for 10 minutes and it will slowly soak the coffee up into the edges.



The resulting flower looks like this:


You can also group flowers together for a real show-stopping headpiece or a lovely bouquet:


The great thing about paper towels is they are pretty resilient.  If you squish your flower, just use your fingers to smooth it back into shape.  This project would also work well with fabric for a more durable accessory.  This craft offers endless possibilities to experiment with color, size, shape and anything else you can think of.  Send me your variations and I’ll post them here! Happy crafting 😀

Meta Apron

26 Sep

Over the weekend I found this amazing, super cute fabric with a 1950’s housewives pattern printed all over it!  I wasn’t sure what I would use it for, but I just couldn’t pass it up.  As I was looking it over today, the perfect idea popped into my head: an apron!  The fabric is covered with women wearing adorable, period aprons so what better thing to make with the fabric than a classic apron?  Today’s post is called Meta Apron because today, we are making an apron out of apron-covered fabric!

Things you will need to complete this project:

-fabric of your choosing

-needle and thread

-sewing machine (or you can hand-sew)


-two yards of ribbon


Here is a photo of the fabric:


And a close up of the ladies:

The first thing to do was measure the fabric to fit around my waist and fall just above the knee.  I wrapped the fabric around the front of my waist and doubled it, and then I marked where it hit my knee.  Be sure to leave an extra inch all around for hemming!


Next, I cut the fabric to size.  Don’t forget to cut off the selvage (the strip on the side of the fabric that is not part of the pattern)!


Then, with the fabric upside-down, I folded over and ironed the two sides and bottom of the fabric (about an inch).


Using an iron instead of pins to mark seams is a great time-saver, but it usually only works for simple projects with straight edges like this one.  The next step is to sew down all the edges.  sewinghem

After the hem is completed, you can diagonally snip the square corners in order to reduce bulk:


Next, it’s time to prepare the gathers for the waistband.  Thread a needle and sew large basting stitches along the top edge of the fabric, these don’t need to be neat or pretty since we will pull them out later.


Then, hold one end of the thread and push all the fabric towards the other end, creating a bunching/gathering effect:


Hold the gathers up to your waist and spread them out evenly so that the fabric covers the front of your waist.

sizinggathersThen, lay the fabric flat on the table and pin the ribbon along the edge of the gathers making sure the ribbon covers your basting stitches.


Here is a close-up of the pinning:


Lastly, use the sewing machine to sew the ribbon down t0 the top of the apron, sew along the bottom edge of the ribbon and be sure to remove the pins as you sew.  Once the seam is complete, turn the skirt over and cut/pull out the basting threads as you don’t need them anymore.  Then tie on your apron and start baking!


I’m not much of a baker, but with the encouragement of the ladies on this cute new apron I will definitely give it a shot! 🙂

Weaving Old School: Day 3

19 Sep

In my last two posts, I discussed how to build the loom and its basic operation and how to thread the loom.  Today, I will show you a video of some weaving in action (complete with an epic outfit!) and show you some of the finished products.

Click the following link to check out my video: Weaving comes to life!

As you can see from the video, it is pretty straightforward but very tedious.

Step 1: Push the shuttle (bolt of thread) through the space between the two long planes of thread (the warp threads.)

Step 2: Step on the foot peddle to switch the position of the thread planes.

Step 3: Pull the wooden comb against the newly positioned weft thread (the horizontal one) in order to pack it down.

Step 4: Repeat.  Over, and over, and over again for about 8 hours until the fabric is about five feet long.

Step 5: Sew a loose thread looping in and around each warp thread in order to finish the edges.

Step 6: Roll the completed fabric onto the bolt and start again.

Once the bolt is full, the fabric is cut into five foot pieces to create scarves. The scarves are then loaded into a truck and driven eight hours to the nearest city where they are sold to tourists as local artisan handicrafts.

I was told that the scarves I made couldn’t be sold because they were too amateur and lumpy!  Weaving may seem like a simple process but it takes years to master and perfect.  As a result, I got to keep all of my scarves!  Here are some pics of my handiwork 🙂

Look at all those lumps! 😉


It was so cold in China that I wrapped myself in all my scarfs

My scarf kept me warm while hiking on the Great Wall of China!

It was a really wonderful and amazing experience to learn all about crafting in another culture and I am forever grateful to have had such an incredible opportunity.  You can read the paper I wrote about my experience living and working in this small village here.

Now I just have to build one of these things in my backyard and I’ll be in business!

Weaving Old School: Day 2

15 Sep

In my last post, I discussed how to build a traditional Chinese loom from scratch.  Today, we are going to learn how to thread the loom.  Let’s start with a photo of how the whole thing looks when it’s threaded and in action:

This is Aiyi, she's the best weaver in town!

The woven fabric to the left is completed.  You can see to the right of her hands the two planes of vertically stretched threads that meet at the ends closest to her, forming a ‘V’ shape.  Those are called the warp threads and they are stretched taught across the entire length of the loom.  Each thread is held in its own individual loop made out of the white string suspended from the top of the loom.  The white string is attached to pedals at her feet which she presses to bring the bottom plane to the top and vice-versa.  Each time the planes are switched, she passes a thread horizontally through the ‘V’ space made by the planes.  This is the weft thread, which gets packed down by the giant wooden comb in Aiyi’s hands in the photo above.

Here you can see how each thread goes through a white loop.

Here you can see how each of the white loops are wrapped around bamboo dowels in order to create the suspension.  This photo also helps to give you an idea of the two separate planes of warp (vertical) thread.

The thread is knotted in a special way at the end of the loom to make it easier to feed more thread through the loops as needed.

End of the loom

When the fabric is done, it is rolled onto a piece of wood used to make a bolt:

As you can probably imagine, with so many threads and ropes hanging around, it gets tangled pretty easily!  This method of weaving is pretty simple, but it becomes tedious because a weaver must constantly get up and adjust the warp threads that have become tangled from being switched back and forth.  Stay tuned for a video of *yours truly* wearing traditional Chinese clothing AND weaving on this loom.

Weaving Old School

15 Sep

Today’s post is the first part of three chronicling a very special and unique experience I had while learning how to weave on a loom.  I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to a very rural area of China and study the areas longstanding tradition of hand weaving fabric.

The loom structure and operation can seem daunting at first, but it is actually pretty straightforward once you learn the basics.  All the looms were built by hand using wood from trees we chopped down ourselves!

The loom is built about 6 feet long and 5 feet tall and basically looks like a 4-post bed!  Here is a sketch I made for our blueprints:

Piece o' cake, right?

The basic point of the structure is to be able to stretch the thread taught all the way from one end of the loom to the other, creating the “warp” (the thread that goes the long way).  Then, through a series of strings and wooden dowels, two separate warp planes will be created, like two sheets stacked on top of each other. The two planes move up and down between each other with the push of a petal.  Each time the planes switch positions, a spool of thread passes through horizontally, creating the “weft.”  In this way, thread by thread, fabric is made!  Fabric is still made using this centuries-old basic principle, the only difference is that today, most of it is made with machines!

This is what the loom looks like from the point of view of the weaver.  The two hanging wooden dowels (labeled “reni”) are connected by string to foot pedals which switch the warp (planes of fabric shown vertically).  Each time they switch, the bolt of thread (labeled “sige”) is passed through horizontally.  The wooden rectangle (labeled “busi”) is like a giant comb for the thread and each time the weft is woven through the warp, the wooden rectangle is pulled down to push the weft in nice and tight.  You wouldn’t want a bunch of little, see-through holes in your clothes, would you?!

Here is a photo of the finished loom once it was built and threaded!

Front of the loom!

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll show you all exactly how this crazy contraption works and turns thread into beautiful scarves and fabric.  You’ll also surely get a kick out of my crazy weaving outfit 😀

May the Felt Be With You

9 Sep

The stars must have aligned because it’s time for another Star Wars craft: Yoda dolls!  Today’s craft is great for kids and employs a simple methodology that can be used again and again to create all of your favorite characters! You will need the following supplies:

-two sheets each of 8″x 11″ felt in green, brown, tan and red (optional)


-needle and thread

-pillow stuffing (you can also use newspaper or cut up an old t-shirt)

-paper and pencil



-googly eyes

My trusty crafting assistant helped me choose the following felt color palette for our fury friends:

The first thing we did was draw an outline of Yoda and his clothing on paper.  You can print these drawings and use them as templates to make your own Yoda doll!

Yoda Body

Yoda robe, undershirt, nose and mouth

The next step is to cut out the templates and pin them to the felt.  Pin the body, mouth and nose to the green fabric, the robe to the dark brown fabric, and the triangular undershirt to the tan fabric. Be sure to double up on felt for the body and the robe – we don’t want Yoda’s backside to be naked!

All pinned down!

Cutting I am

Next, it is time to sew together the body.  You can use any stitch you like, but I recommend a whip stitch because it’s fast and it seals the edges of the felt to prevent the stuffing from getting loose!   Start at the left foot and sew all the way up and around the body; stop when you get the the right foot – is important to leave an opening to put the stuffing in.

Opening for stuffing

Insert little clumps of stuffing at a time and use a pen or a chopstick to get all the nooks and crannies – don’t forget his pointy ears!

Like stuffing a turkey!

Once he is all stuffed you can sew up the rest of the opening.  Now it’s time for Yoda dress-up!  Pin both sides of the robe together on Yoda’s body and sew it together.

Stitching up the robe

The whip stitch (or any stitch) is fine for this as well, however I chose to use a blanket stitch and some green, contrasting thread because I thought it looked pretty 🙂

Blanket stitch close-up

Once Yoda is decently dressed, glue (or sew) the tan triangle upside-down at his neck to make his undershirt.  Then glue on his mouth and finally, the googly eyes! The red felt is for adding the optional finishing touch that my little crafting helper came up with – a little tongue sticking out!

Very happy with the finished product, I was 😀

And of course, a final picture in front of the other Star Wars themed craft we made, the AT-AT garden!